Cuba and EU seize opportunity from Trump and approve first-ever trade deal

In an apparent snub to U.S. President Donald Trump, the European Parliament has approved a pact with Cuba that would expand trade and dialogue channels with the island nation.

The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement was approved in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday (July 6), by 567 votes to 65, with 31 abstentions. A provisional implementation of the deal is expected to begin within months.

The European Union’s website said that the pact “will help expand bilateral trade, promote dialogue and economic cooperation and provide for joint action on the world scene.”

The EU’s statement goes on to say that “without clearly mentioning the U.S. embargo, [the parliamentarians] are opposed to ‘laws and measures with extraterritorial effect,’ given that they are ‘harmful to the Cuban population.’ The EU-Cuba deal should contribute to improving the living conditions and social rights of Cuban citizens, [the parliamentarians] add.”

[To read the EU announcement, click here.]

Rapporteur Elena Valenciano of Spain said that “Europe has a great opportunity to demonstrate to the United States, which intends to withdraw, that it is possible to maintain the highest level of expectations on Cuba,” adding that that could be a major step to normalize relations with Havana.

“Dialogue and cooperation with Cuba are the best instruments to build a constructive and future-oriented relationship,” she also said.

The agreement — a nonbinding resolution — has been under negotiation since April 2014 and was signed by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini in December 2016. It needed to get the European Parliamentís consent to enter into force and will apply on a provisional basis pending ratification by all 28 member states.

As the online magazine Panorámica notes, Cuba is “the gateway to Latin America where the U.S. and the EU have lost much of their influence to the advantage of China and Russia. Moreover, Cuba has diplomatic relations with all countries of the Latin American continent and plays a prominent role in most regional organizations. Conversely, countries in the Latin American continent on various occasions expressed their solidarity with Cuba, which plays a key role in this region.”

[Photo at top of the European Parliament voting to approve Cuba-EU pact on July 6, 2017.]

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